Just when it looked as if the 2021 NHL trade deadline was going to quietly fizzle out, the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings pulled off a last minute blockbuster.
The Red Wings are sending forward Anthony Mantha to the Capitals for a massive trade package that includes Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round draft pick, and a 2022 second-round draft pick.
There is a lot to like about this trade for both teams.
For Washington, Mantha seems like an absolutely perfect fit for the way that team is built and plays. He is a massive human being, plays a physical game, and plays at a really high level. That combination is not easy to find.
His biggest issue in Detroit in recent years has been staying on the ice as injuries have limited him over the past couple of years. But when he is out there he is a noticeable, impact player. He scores at a 25-30 goal pace over 82 games, and has been an outstanding possession drive on a roster that has been one of the league’s worst throughout his career. Put him on a roster like Washington that is full of high-end players that play a game similar to him and it could be a perfect match.
He is also signed long-term through the 2023-24 season at a salary cap hit of $5.7 million per season.
That is a significant get for a team that is already a Stanley Cup contender.
That is not to say Detroit did poorly here. This is an outstanding return for its best player.
Vrana is an extremely talented player and has been very productive so far in his career and could probably excel even more in a bigger role, something he will almost certainly get in Detroit. He is a restricted free agent after this season and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after next season, so the Red Wings do have some work to do in terms of getting him re-signed. But he is an excellent player and a strong centerpiece in a Mantha trade.
Panik is a strong defensive forward, but was probably always destined to be the odd-man out in Washington, especially given his contract that still has two more full seasons remaining at a salary cap hit of $2.75 million. His biggest value to Detroit in the short-term might be as a trade chip somewhere else in the future.
It also gives the Red Wings a bounty of draft picks over the next two years.
They now have 12 picks in the 2021 class, including five in the first two rounds (two first-round picks and three second-round picks), and 10 picks in the 2022 class.